People who are accused of a crime enjoy several rights under the U.S. Constitution’s Sixth Amendment. These include the right to a speedy and public trial, the right to a lawyer, the right to an impartial jury, and finally, the right to know who the accusers are and the nature of the charge and evidence against them.
The last one, i.e. the right to be made aware of the charge, is often overlooked. Police officers can come to knock on an accused’s door asking them to come down to the station and cooperate with an investigation. They might even present themselves as allies to get the accused’s side of the story, which they later use to implicate them.
Unfortunately, it happens. But people can protect themselves by knowing their Sixth Amendment rights and tattooing this into their brains: “if you don’t know, don’t go!”
“If You Don’t Know, Don’t Go”
Police have the obligation to inform an accused about the charges and evidence against them, as well as who their accusers are. In the same way, a criminal defendant has a right to clarify why they are being asked to head down to the station to participate in a police interrogation.
If the police don’t inform the accused of the charges against them, the latter can refuse to cooperate.
Consequences of Not Knowing What You Are Charged With
It’s incredibly important for defendants to exercise their right to be informed of the charges against them. If they are unaware of it and head to the station, they are putting themselves in a situation where they can implicate and incriminate themselves. They can even be detained by the police without question, even if they voluntarily came down to participate in the investigation.
Cooperating with the police without exercising basic Sixth Amendment rights can put a defendant in great harm. So if you don’t know, don’t go.